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Skoda Karoq review: A 'Roq star

The Skoda Karoq might not be able to go off-road, but it takes your motoring money pretty far.




OWNING to the relentless march of technology, not to mention a fair amount of copycat engineering, most cars are pretty good these days. But the Skoda Karoq transcends that by being downright excellent.

That should be taken in the context of its price, which kicks off at S$112,900 with Certificate Of Entitlement. I mean a Rolls-Royce Phantom is pretty splendid, but for most of us the S$2m needed to buy a decently customised one would be slightly more splendid.

As for the Skoda, the money buys five seats wrapped up in vaguely Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) form. Mind you, though the Karoq has the body of an SUV, it doesn't quite have the legs of one. Because the engine only drives the front wheels, taking it off-roading makes as much sense as taking your pet goldfish for a walk without the bowl.

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That said, show me someone who buys an SUV for off-roading, and I'll show you someone who buys a Rolex to tell the time. What the Karoq needs to do well is not sling mud but haul a family around, a job at which it would excel.

Admittedly, it doesn't look like much - like the other Skodas, the Karoq is inoffensively handsome at best - but it does have good genes, contributed by corporate parent Volkswagen. It rides on the same "MQB" architecture that underpins the vast majority of VW and Audi cars, and really makes the most of it.

All the MQB cars generally crest bumps with fluidity and feel light-footed around bends, but the Karoq strikes the ride/handling balance particularly well for an SUV. It's agile and surefooted, with taut body control, and yet the suspension gives it an admirable suppleness over most road surfaces.

It's also hushed at speed, which helps give it the sort of refinement you tend to find in cars that are far more expensive. I'm at the age where the list of things I can do for more than a few minutes at a time without groaning is rapidly shrinking, but I could gladly drive a Karoq for hours.

Likewise, the engine shows VW at its best. It's a 1.5-litre turbo with fuel-saving cylinder deactivation tech, paired with a fast-thinking, fast-acting seven-speed auto. Both the engine and transmission could do with more smoothness, but it's hard to resist the vivacious way they propel the Karoq.

Thanks to the turbocharger, it feels like someone sneaked an extra litre of engine under the bonnet, resulting in a car that picks up speed with a jolly sort of aplomb.

When it comes to the practical stuff, the Karoq is available with something called VarioFlex. That sounds like a suspicious piece of gym equipment but is really a tricky seating system that adds plenty of versatility. For a start, it allows the individual rear seats to tilt and slide, which in turn lets you adjust boot space between 479 and 588 litres. The novel bit involves an idea from early Multi Purpose Vehicles (MPVs): tug this, unclip that, and you can lift the chairs right out of the cabin.

Removing all three gives you a whopping 1,810 litres of cargo space.

Whether you want to do the heavy lifting involved is a different matter, but at least you'll always have the option.

VarioFlex is part of a S$10,000 "Style" package, which also adds a bunch of minor extravagances. The more useful among these include an electric tailgate, rear view camera, a powered driver's seat, blind spot monitors, as well as a system that watches the road ahead so the Skoda can intervene with autonomous braking if the driver is dozy.

Other Style extras are simply nice to have, such as a navigation-equipped infotainment system that comes with a larger screen and speakers from Canton, a German loudspeaker specialist.

Such things give the Karoq a touch of poshness, even though it isn't priced like a posh car. Nor is it meant to be one. Skoda are meant to exemplify value-for-money motoring, not ostentation.

That means if you drive a Karoq, you won't have a posh badge to flaunt. But at least you'll be able to show everyone you have excellent taste in cars.

Skoda Karoq Style 1.5 TSI

Engine 1,498cc, turbo in-line four

Power 150hp at 5,000 to 6,000rpm

Torque 250Nm at 1,500 to 3,500rpm

Gearbox 7-speed twin-clutch automatic

Top Speed 203km/h

0-100km/h 9.0 seconds

Fuel efficiency 5.8L/100km

Price S$122,900 with COE

Agent Skoda Centre Singapore

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